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Women Who Mean Business

Jena Holtberg-Benge is a Woman Who Means Business

Jena Holtberg-Benge never says no to the chance to hop on a plane and start a new project. It’s led her as far away as China and India, and now she’s blazing trails in Springfield, Missouri as general manager at John Deere Reman.

By Tessa Cooper | Art Direction by Sarah Patton | Makeup by KKD Beauty Café

Mar 2020

Jena Holtberg-Benge General Manager John Deere Reman
Photo by Brandon AlmsJena Holtberg-Benge, General Manager John Deere Reman Purchase Photo

Wherever Jena Holtberg-Benge goes, success follows. In 1995, an ambitious Holtberg-Benge graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, with a Bachelor of Arts in international studies. Six months later, she landed a job at Laura Mercier as an account manager, overseeing stores from North Carolina to Colorado and driving a 30 percent increase in annual sales. 

Today, she’s the general manager at John Deere Reman, a division of John Deere that employs approximately 700 people and distributes remanufactured John Deere parts globally. She plays a vital role in the company’s success—and has learned a lot about teamwork, leadership and cultural differences along the way as her work has taken her across the globe.


Less than a month after she started, she was on a plane to Brisbane, Australia, to make a presentation to John Deere’s sales branch and help them create their deere.com.au website, align the brand and discuss dealer website offerings. Now, she oversees aspects of the company’s operations, finances, sales, marketing, customer support, engineering, supply management, human resources and finance.

Working for a company that operates on a global scale has allowed Holtberg-Benge to step into challenging situations that have taught her how to navigate company hierarchy and cultural expectations. One particularly difficult project she worked on involved the Commonwealth of Independent States and Russia. The project taught her the importance of working well with a team. 

“During a senior leadership meeting in Germany, I had the opportunity to present my recommendation regarding the combines I believed would be appropriate for the CIS and Russia markets,” she says. “I had a positive response from my leadership and the senior officers, but when I returned home, my boss received an irate call from the head of the region, who was extremely mad. He and his team were not aligned with the recommendation.” Holtberg-Benge was devastated. She had put a lot of work into getting to the conclusion, but the regional team felt she had not included them enough in the decision-making process. But she was also embarrassed. “I thought this was something I should be able to navigate well,” she says.

“I can tell you, especially in a large global company, unless you tell somebody what you want to do and what your desires and your aspirations are, or what you’re passionate about, nobody will know, and you’re not going to get where you want to go.”
— Jena Holtberg-Benge

Holtberg-Benge didn’t leave this difficult situation without learning from it. Through the experience, she discovered how important it is to understand decision rights within a large company like John Deere & Co. According to her, understanding who has the decision-making power helps you determine who to influence and who you need to align with.  

“I realized I did not have the relationships or respect within that region yet,” she says. “After that, I worked extra-hard to enlist the support of the region. I often leverage a stakeholder analysis when I work on a large or important project, which helps me know who I need to connect with.”

Over the years, Holtberg-Benge has worked with more international markets than Russia and Germany. As an e-marketing champion and international e-business analyst for Deere & Co., she has created and coordinated a coherent e-business plan for Deere’s markets in countries like Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Australia and France. She also worked on behalf of the company from 2005 to 2008 in Pune, India, where she was part of the leadership group that launched the John Deere Technology Center, managing the technical authoring group and later deploying the John Deere Product Quality System.


In 2012, she moved to Beijing, China, to explore growth opportunities for Deere. There, more than 6,000 miles away from home, she led strategic planning for the organization and managed the manufacturing plan for long-term growth.

Over the span of 18 years, Holtberg-Benge has held nine roles within Deere & Co. Part of the reason she’s stayed is because she’s not afraid to express her goals, something she says a lot of women struggle with in the workplace. 

“I haven’t been shy about what I want, and I think that’s been really helpful,” she says. “I think often people are worried about that or nervous about sharing their aspirations, and I can tell you, especially in a large global company, unless you tell somebody what you want to do and what your desires and your aspirations are, or what you’re passionate about, nobody will know, and you’re not going to get where you want to go.”

She continues to trek on and boldly see her goals come to fruition. “I have high aspirations for me and my family,” she says. “I also believe I have a lot to contribute to John Deere and my community.  If I am continuing to learn, to grow and delivering excellent results, I am successful. If I enable the company to grow profitably and create a sustainable business, then I am successful.”

MORE ABOUT JENA

HOMETOWN

Worcester, Massachusetts, but lived in Hong Kong from ages 9 to 15

FAMILY

Married with one son

FAVORITE WAY TO DECOMPRESS

Running and reading business and nonfiction books

PUMP-UP SONG

“Run the World (Girls)”  by Beyoncé

CAREER BREAKTHROUGH

Moving back to the United States from India and becoming an operations manager for the John Deere small tractor factory in Augusta, Georgia. “It was a whole new function for me, a big stretch, a big role,” she says. “I had to manage a lot of people.”

ADVICE FOR HER YONGER SELF

“Have courage and confidence in your capabilities because you’re going to accomplish so much more than you expected you could.”